I read my first Toni Morrison!
I tried reading Beloved like 6 years ago, but I remember being really, really freaked out in the beginning and having to stop it. Like I distinctly remember that I was living at my sister’s house, reading on my bed, and it was scaring me and I had to quit. This is why it was on my R.I.P. VIII pile*, although now that I’ve successfully read it I realize it wasn’t THAT scary… definitely creepy, and horrifying overall because of the consequences of slavery… but now I’m getting ahead of myself. You might want to know what the book is about.
Sethe. Proud and beautiful, she escaped from slavery but is haunted by its heritage – from the fires of the flesh to the heartbreaking challenges to the spirit. Set in rural Ohio several years after the Civil War, this profoundly affecting chronicle of slavery and its aftermath is Toni Morrison’s greatest novel – a dazzling achievement and a spellbinding reading experience.
That’s from the back of the book, and it honestly doesn’t tell much, but it also sums things up really articulately. Sethe IS proud and beautiful, and she IS haunted by her years as a slave. It IS profoundly affecting – I can’t say that it’s an enjoyable book to read, but it’s an important book to read, and disturbed me in several different ways.
But I’m going to tell you a little bit more, without being too spoiler-y. Sethe escaped from slavery 18 years ago, and she now lives in her mother-in-law’s house with her daughter Denver, and the house is haunted by an angry baby ghost. (Seriously, this isn’t a spoiler – it’s on the first page.) One day Paul D. shows up at the house – he was one of the slaves Sethe knew at Sweet Home, and his arrival changes everything. From there, the plot slowly unfolds – the story of Sethe’s escape from slavery, her arrival at her mother-in-law’s house, who the baby ghost is, and why it’s haunting them.
The things that happen in this book, to Paul D and to Sethe and her whole family, are fucked up. And that’s because slavery is fucked up, and this book shows that perfectly. Beloved excels at showing some of the darkest psychological impacts of slavery, which make it intense, uncomfortable, and terrifying to read. You know how sometimes you read a classic or an award-winning book and you think “Why? Why in the world would this win an award?” Well I totally get why Beloved won the Pulitzer Prize for Fiction. I wish it was on all the high school reading lists, although I’m sure it would immediately be protested and stupid book-banning parents would fight it, but it’s IMPORTANT. The whole point of the book is the horrible, upsetting things that happen and students should read it and discuss it. It’s a tragic story, full of pain and sadness and regret, and that’s why it’s a really good book.
Sarah Says: 4.5 stars
*Seriously, there’s an angry baby ghost. You guys know that babies/dolls/small children/gnomes/any small creatures freak me out, so obviously that was the scariest.